Community policing is a philosophy and an organizational strategy that promotes partnership between the people of the community and the police. It is based on the premise that both the police and the community must work together to identify, prioritise and solve contemporary problems such as crime, drugs, fear of crime, social problems and other forms of disorder with the goal of improving the quality of life in the community.
Community Policing in Guyana started out as what was then known as Crime Prevention Committees under the late Commissioner of Police Henry Fraser, DSS, DSM, on March 11, 1976, with the first group being launched at the La Grange Police Station.
Crime Prevention Committees had their genesis in the 1960s under ‘vigilantism; when the prevailing environment led to the protection of communities from looting and civil arrest.
The concept behind the establishment of these Committees was based on the premise that regardless of how efficient and technologically equipped a Police Force might strive to become, its task of dealing effectively with crime and lawlessness would be made extremely difficult if it lacks the support of the public it serves.
The Crime Prevention Committees later evolved into what is known today as Community Policing Groups.
Community Policing Groups are formed on the basis of a partnership among the Government, the Police and members of the community in recognition of the need to reduce crime; reduce the fear of crime; promote and provide peace, safety and security; promote community integration and support for the police; enhancing the crime fighting capacity of the police; strengthen organizational support and improve the quality of life in communities. There are presently 270 active community policing groups with a membership of some 5,201 members.
Cognisant of the important role that community policing can play in its overall public safety and security plan, during March 2006 the Government, through the then Ministry of Home Affairs, now Ministry of Public Security, came on board with the active management of Community Policing through the establishment of a Community Policing Unit which is headed by a Community Policing Administrator.
Administratively, the Community Policing Organization of Guyana (CPOG) comprises the Ministry of Public Security, the Guyana Police Force and the National Community Policing Executive (NCPE) which together are responsible for the administration of community policing in Guyana. The place of business of the CPOG is at Police Headquarters, Eve Leary.
The Police Divisions have Divisional Community Policing Executive bodies that are elected by the various groups in the respective Division, and the members of the NCPE are elected at its Annual General Meeting with the Divisional Chairmen automatically being members.
Internally, each Police Division has a Community Policing Desk with the Second-in-Command of the Division being the ‘point-man’ for community policing `activities and reporting to the Divisional Commander. The Divisional Commander has responsibility to the Commissioner of Police who is assisted in this regard by the Deputy Commissioner “Administration” and the Police National Coordinator for Community Policing who is also the Force Public Relations and Press Officer.
The Ministry of Public Security from time to time gives policy guidelines for the maintenance and development of community policing.
With the involvement of the Ministry of Public Security, community policing has been galvanized in a positive way with more resources being made available, as a specific budgetary allocation for community policing was realized under the Ministry.
Groups countrywide have been provided with motor vehicles (all terrain vehicles, motor cycles and four wheeled vehicles), boats and engines, bicycles and accoutrements such as jerseys, torchlights, batons, and handcuffs in order to improve their visibility and effectiveness in patrolling their communities.
A radio network has also been activated comprising base sets at certain locations in Divisions and hand held sets at group level.
Community Policing Liaison Officers have been appointed by the Ministry to work with community policing groups in the Police Divisions but with responsibility to the Ministry.
A field Audit was recently done to correct, as far as practicable, the statistics in relation to the number of groups and persons involved. Training has also improved with a curriculum being drawn up by the Guyana Police Force and a special needs package compiled by the Ministry.
A new Constitution for the Community Policing Organisation of Guyana (CPOG) was drafted and subsequently adopted at the Annual General Meeting of the NCPE that was held during 2013, at the Police Sports Club, Eve Leary.
Some years ago, cognisant of the fact that owing to manpower limitations police ranks could not be made available to effectively accompany community policing groups when on patrol in their communities, the Police Force put in place arrangements whereby identified and approved members of community policing groups were processed as Rural Constables to be with the patrols.
Later, especially during the 2002-2004 crime wave, specific groups were issued with firearms which were to be carried by the Rural Constables after they had been trained in its use by the police and so licensed to use. Generally the firearms are lodged at the police stations and uplifted at time of patrol and lodged upon completion of the patrol.
Community policing is a part of the architecture of public safety and security as it is also a part of the machinery in the fight against crime. It has become an integral part of policing, forming a significant link between the police and the community.
The police cannot be everywhere and with our manpower shortage and already demanding workload consistent with our role and responsibilities, we need greater community support and involvement which would enable us to be more informed of unlawful activities in communities, assist us in our response to incidents, and ultimately the fight against crime. We need to build on the trust and confidence at the community level, and through the concept of community policing much can be achieved.
The Guyana Police Force remains committed to the continued support for and the strengthening of community policing in the country to the extent that it has become a subject area of several training programmes conducted at the Felix Austin Police College.